Issue of poor attendance at RDKB meetings divides council

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
June 20th, 2018

The accusation of truancy and a lack of commitment to attendance by city representatives to the regional district board meetings caused more than a ripple in Grand Forks city council chambers.

Coun. Julia Butler brought forth a notice of motion recently in Grand Forks city council to appoint another representative and alternate representative to the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) board of directors meetings.

Using a baseball reference, Butler said council was supposed to be playing like a professional baseball team, but if the pitcher wasn’t doing so well a decision had to be made on whether or not to let them finish out the game or to put in another pitcher.

“And when the pitcher is not showing up for the games and not representing your team that can be devastating to the whole team,” she said.

“Especially at this point, right after the floods, we need to have strong representation at the RDKB table, we need someone showing up for every meeting.”

She noted there have been complaints and concerns brought to her from that table that Grand Forks was not being properly represented, a city representative only being physically present at the RDKB table 11 out of the last 20 meetings.

She felt it important that the city representative at the board level takes forward the wishes of the council, that the wishes and thoughts of council were at that table for every meeting, and the representaive was bringing back regular reports.

“I would like us to talk together on who we think the best communicator at that table would be,” she said.

Coun. Beverley Tripp acknowledged that the matter Butler had brought forward was not a comfortable thing to talk about, but a city presence at the regional district board table was an important one.

She said she knew the city representatives have had reasons as to why they were not present at those meetings and she was okay with it.

“But what I would like to see is a firm commitment to the rest of the time we are on council to make sure that those meetings are attended and that we would get a written report back,” Tripp said.

“If we could get that sort of commitment I would certainly be happy to leave the people who are doing it just so we know we are going to be getting better communication,” she added.

Mayor Frank Konrad, the city representative on the RDKB board, said although he wanted to weigh in on the conversation, he did not want to lower himself “to the level of this kind of discussion.”

He said it was amazing that a city councilor would single out the mayor and the alternate “at a time like this,” that she found enough time to find specifically the amount of meetings that were “so called missed,” which they were not because they were done by conference calls.

“I would have expected that the chair from the RDKB would have approached me and mentioned this to me, and more so yourself Coun. Butler, before going behind my back at the AKBLG (conference) and discussing with other members at the RDKB table,” he said.

“That would be a more professional approach, rather than bringing it out to the public before discussing it with myself.”

Coun. Neil Krog did not want to play politics, calling Butler’s motion “a political play” and refused to discuss it further.

Coun. Christine Thompson said it was unfortunate the matter had been brought up.

Roly Russell, RDKB representative for Rural Grand Forks (Area D) and the RDKB chairman of the board, was present at the meeting and said he did not want to be part of the discussion, as he was only sitting at the table that night to answer for his district on other topics.

“I don’t think this is the time for me to be here. I’m sitting here not as the chair of the regional district, I’m sitting here as the Rural Grand Forks representative,” he said.

Konrad said he had a previous conversation with Russell on the matter of attendance and that the RDKB chair did not want to get into the middle of the conversation, nor did Konrad expect him to become involved.

The only reason the chair was mentioned was because Butler had mentioned his name outright as one of the individuals that has spoken to her behind Konrad’s back, said the mayor, and that was the only reason he brought that forward, not for comment.

Coun. Colleen Ross, the RDKB alternate representative, said she had been the original council representative to the RDKB board but stepped aside when the mayor offered to attend the meetings.

“I am a little, somewhat, offended that its been implied that I am not doing due diligence because that is not at all true,” she said.

She said any meetings she has been called to attend, she has.

“I don’t feel that we are missing out on anything and I certainly like to do my due diligence and don’t like to be publicly shamed for something that’s not true,” she said.

Butler said she had contacted Ross previously about the drop in attendance at RDKB meetings and was told by Ross she did not know of any missed meetings, and if she had been contacted to attend she would have been there.

“I was hoping that after that discussion that would have been taken care of,” Butler said.

She added that it was the alternate’s responsibility to make sure a Grand Forks’ council representative would be attending the board meetings.

“I’m just asking, moving forward, are you guys going to continue representing us on that board? Is that something you can communicate on together to make sure one of you is at that table?” she said.

Butler said she hoped for some sort of commitment for future meetings and not attending by conference call.

“Thanks Coun. Butler for being such an advocate watch dog over us,” said Konrad.

Thompson said the discussion of attendance should have been between the RDKB chair and the mayor, it should have come to the city council table at all.

“I don’t know who had the time to sit and go through all of the minutes and determine who attended what meetings,” she said.

Thompson added that she had read on Butler’s Facebook page that she had gone through and compiled the information personally.

Is that “all you have to do with your time?” Thompson asked Butler.

The mayor quickly stated that the situation at hand was “very appalling” that directors at the RDKB table would discuss his position and his function, or lack of, with one of the city’s councilors.

“I’m not interested in pursuing it any further. I had that intent but I let it go,” Konrad said to Russell, “because I feel the whole scenario is an endeavour, a wasted endeavour, because we have better things to do, yourself in Area D and ourselves in Grand Forks.”

Question on the motion was called, but Butler said it was already decided, that council had discussed it and was happy with its representation at the board.

“My apologies to everyone in the gallery that we had to go down this road,” Konrad said in conclusion.

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